April 11, 2021
We’re in Tampa, Florida at Raymond James Stadium. Unlike yesterday, which frankly I reviewed on a whim, I’ve not read any spoilers. Was I inspired to watch because Sasha and Bianca tore the house down? Well, yeah. I’m not really expecting anything of the same tonight to be quite honest. Especially as Bray Wyatt has a match.
Titus O’Neill attempts a pirate accent and the crowd turn on this before it even starts. Great work mate! Hogan’s every word gets booed. That’s better Tampa! They do a bit where Titus gets upset because Hogan calls people “scallywags”. I see what you’re doing there Vince and it’s not fucking funny.
Randy Orton vs. The Fiend
I didn’t know this was Wyatt vs. Orton. Did they not learn from last time this happened at Mania? It was the worst match of the year. From the video package it looks like they’ve been doing a lot of horror movie business in the build.
The Fiend emerges from an evil Jack-in-the-Box. I don’t know why I added the prefix of “evil” there all jack-in-the-box’s are inherently evil. Apart from the burger joint in the States. Their Ultimate Cheeseburger and curly fries combo is awesome. With Wyatt coming back from the dead it seems they’ve finally pulled the trigger on his ‘powers’ meaning he no sells more. I’ve said for a long time they needed something to fill the Undertaker void and Wyatt was an ideal person to do this. There are fans who enjoy this! Wyatt himself is a sluggish, dull worker but so was the Undertaker in his deadman gimmick for years and years.
Alexa Bliss makes a second appearance as “Sister Abigail” and Orton clips Wyatt with the RKO. I’m actually laughing here because it felt like they’d finally put together the pieces on the Fiend and had him lose again. Obviously the actual wrestling was bad. I appreciate Bray being unable to battle Randall Q. Orton Esq because of his raging horn for Alexa Bliss doing witchy cosplay. I feel you brother.
Final Rating: DUD
The lights go out and everybody disappears.
Bayley tries to get Eric Bischoff on her show. He wants to get Bianca on his podcast. Hogan makes his excuses and leaves because being around people of colour makes him sick.
Women’s Tag Team Championship
Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax © vs. Natalya Neidhart & Tamina Snuka
My hopes are not high for this. Tamina or Nia is ok, Tamina AND Nia? No, thanks. I appreciate them getting the bad matches out of the way early so the energy slowly builds on this show. “Tamina has never looked better” is not the praise you guys think it is. “Lay it in” – Nia Jax asks for more. Nattie and Shayna try to control the pace but it’s tough for them and the quality here is not up to scratch. Shayna is not the ring general the WWE hope she is and that leaves Natalya in charge. In their infinite wisdom they decide to do a leg match with Nattie the victim. Natalya tries very hard to save the match by just taking a bunch of spots. This feels really, really long and a lot of the timing is bad. Tamina hits the big Andre/Hogan slam to pop the crowd and Nia conveniently repositions herself for the Superfly Splash. That’s not even the finish as Nia moves. A lot of this is completely incompetent. It’s badly timed, badly planned and badly executed. Natalya, dipshit that she is, slaps the Sharpshooter on the illegal wrestler and Shayna puts her out with the Kirifuda Clutch. This was awful.
Final Rating: -*
Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn
Sami has been running a conspiracy gimmick for ages. The ideal opponent for him is his long-time buddy/tag team partner/opponent Kevin Owens. Logan Paul is here as Sami Zayn’s guest. Sami coming out here to the same perky upbeat ska he had in NXT when he’s now strolling around looking like Che Guevara is a bit odd.
Logan Paul, noted YouTuber, gets a lot of heat.
They start a little sluggishly until Sami tries to murder Owens with a suplex on the apron. Given their understanding and history they have a tidy match with cool spots. Sami has some pleasingly deranged facials too. It shows off his desperation to beat his former best friend. The match is somewhat spoiled by the constant cutaways to Logan Paul doing goofy reactions. Owens hits a Stunner to win after Sami dallied on following up on a great Helluva Kick.
Final Rating: ***½
Post Match: Logan Paul shoves Zayn over and manages to turn Owens heel by holding his arm aloft. Owens has to drill him with a Stunner really and that’s a big crowd pleaser.
Backstage: Matt Riddle and Great Khali have a chat. Am I high?
Rob Van Dam strolls in and Riddle marks out to be meeting one of his favourite stoners. I remember saying, like 3 years ago, that if WWE took Riddle seriously he’d win the WWE title. Well, he’s a comedy guy so maybe that won’t happen. Vince has a tendency to pigeonhole people.
WWE United States Championship
Matt Riddle © vs. Sheamus
I have a conflicted history with Matt Riddle as a person. I’ve been out drinking with him, multiple times. I’ve sang “Teenage Dirtbag” with him. He was always happy to see me and we got on great. He once gave me a pep talk in a nightclub on Broad Street at 2am. I knew he had “it” and was going to make it in the business. However I’ve also seen his behaviour around women up close and it’s not great. For the sake of this show, and future ones, I’ll be judging him based on his performance rather than any issues I have with him personally.
Riddle is fearless both as a character and in the ring. He improves and learns. His in-ring gets better year on year as he tries new things, eliminates anything that doesn’t look right. I feel like his in-ring is enough for him to get the main events. Sheamus looks well fired up here, eager to try stuff and not wanting to get outshone. They do an insane top rope Spanish Fly variant. Sheamus is just the right side of the muscular bulk to still be mobile. They do have one major snafu; a super White Noise where Sheamus slips off the ropes but they keep going and it’s ok. Riddle also has trouble lifting Sheamus on a power move and they have to re-do the setup but it adds to the struggle rather than detracting from the match. Riddle goes for a Lionsault at the finish but Sheamus Brogue Kicks him out of the air for the belt. This was a really good, innovative match and a glimpse at what Riddle can do for WWE long term.
Final Rating: ***¾
Nigerian Drum Fight
WWE Intercontinental Championship
Big E © vs. Apollo Crews
Apollo is now Nigerian. He did wrestle as Uhaa Nation on the Indies. I think everyone who watched Apollo on the Indies was a bit surprised how badly he’s done in WWE but he’s thrived in the ‘no fans’ era where he didn’t need crowd reactions. I love how WWE cared so little about him they lent him to PCW at one point and he went to Preston for three shows on a weekender where he absolutely dogged it because he didn’t want to get injured.
There are no rules to a Nigerian Drum Fight. The idea is you put a beating on your opponent with sticks so it sounds like a drum. WWE taking it literally by putting a bunch of drums and tribal African business around ringside. Vince doesn’t do subtle. Both guys realise they’re in a big spot here and take some nasty bumps. The result is somewhat disjointed. Big spot, set up the next spot with selling, big spot, repeat. Apollo puts himself through a table and gets hit with the Big Ending but some huge guy in military uniform runs in and beats Big E down allowing Apollo to grab the win.
Another seven foot monster? Omos only debuted yesterday! The match was ok. It was brisk but the stop/start nature hurt it.
Final Rating: **3/4
We get a highlights package of Sasha and Bianca kicking ass last night. Even the highlights package is better than anything on this show. It just fucking ruled. We get a Hall of Fame bit again with a second batch of inductees; Rob Van Dam, Molly Holly, Great Khali, Ozzy Osbourne, Rich Hering (Warrior Award winner), Eric Bischoff and Kane. It’s so weird seeing guys like RVD and Kane go into the Hall of Fame. It makes me feel old.
RAW Women’s Championship
Asuka © vs. Rhea Ripley
Rhea gets the live band entrance. I guess WWE didn’t mind that she used homophobic slurs on Twitch then. No, the issue is the boys making money from Twitch not the homophobia. WWE have done a decent job of making both these women feel like a big deal. In all honesty; this is a boon of NXT. Asuka walked in there ready on day one. Rhea got turned from raw potential to the finished article. And then they both got moved on to bigger things when the time was right. This whole third brand nonsense needs to stop.
Rhea looks clumsy here because they have her selling too much. That’s not her bag. In the photo above you can see her exercising her true dominant form, which makes far more sense given the size difference. Ripley isn’t the finished article, or at least I hope she thinks she isn’t. She covers for a lot of technical shortcomings with raw power. Asuka way oversells to help Ripley out and Rhea (like Goldberg, Cena, Lesnar etc before her, at her stage of development) feels a bit exposed in longer matches. Asuka plays her part. She tries to find weaknesses. Whether it’s big spots, submissions or just tiring Ripley out. Rhea keeps going to power as a solution to everything and you’d think the fatigue factor would eventually work. Ripley powers out of the Asukalock and finishes with Riptide. I’d like to see a re-match.
Having Ripley beat Asuka feels like a big deal like when Asuka lost to Charlotte for her unbeaten record to go. She’s not been booked as strongly since that but she is one of the Alphas of the division.
Final Rating: ***¼
Hogan and Titus come out to thank the fans again so here comes Bayley doing her interrupting gimmick. “Where’s my pyro?” She runs her mouth a bit and out comes the Bellas.
They do the standard WWE thing of Hall of Famers beat up current roster star. The crowd boo because, as per usual, WWE have misread Bayley’s popularity and the Bellas popularity. Oh well.
WWE Universal Championship
Roman Reigns © vs. Edge vs. Daniel Bryan
Bryan had a title shot at Fastlane but there was a screwy finish so they made this a three-way. Bryan seems to think this might be his last WrestleMania. Please quit and join AEW or New Japan or anything really. Edge gets that massive nostalgia pop that his comeback has been denied by COVID.
I’m sad that turning Reigns heel means he’s no longer “The Big Dog”. He’ll always be the Big Dog to me! I have no idea why he’s with Heyman and only one of the Usos. I really haven’t been watching. All of these guys are in the second chance saloon. Bryan had concussions and retired. Edge broke his neck and retired. Roman almost retired from leukaemia. But they’re all here for the main event baby! Three adversity stories all together.
There’s no DQ here so Uso can throw superkicks on the floor to his hearts content. Roman as a heel is remarkable because he gets to bump around and oversell and he’s so good at it. As a face he always had to show some restraint in the selling as he had to remain heroic. Vince persisted with that face run for way too long. It was a major mistake. How can anyone that devastatingly handsome be a face? The WWE “universe” are all ugmos.
Triple threat matches are inherently flawed. One guy always has to lie around selling and it’s very hard to structure. This happens too often sadly for this to be a great match. They do have some cool spots though like Roman and Edge both going after a spear simultaneously. After that they settle into a better rhythm of involving all three guys. With one scheming while the other two wrestle and on occasion two down while one sets something up. It’s a tough balance. For a combination of in-ring action and persona, Roman Reigns is now living up to the spot WWE put him in back in 2014.
They do a Yes Lock/crossface spot with poor Roman being pulled apart. It’s lovely. They do a great job of bringing together all the trademark spots and the false finish where Bryan pulls the ref out is great too. Old man Edge is clearly the fan favourite even though he murders Bryan with a Conchairto. Roman smacks Edge with the Conchairto and piles both men for the double win! He retained twice. What a guy.
I have some issues with the way the triple threat played out and I find this type of match hard to deal with because there are always issues with having three guys involved. It’s been done really well before and this was close to being at that same level. It wasn’t quite but it was very good.
Final Rating: ****
N2 is obviously a step below N1. There’s no Sasha-Bianca ‘WrestleMania moment’ match here. The main was very good and a few midcard matches, especially Sheamus-Riddle, delivered. The show was slow to start but overall it was still good. Which makes two nights of good shows versus the standard 7 hour chore that Mania normally is. Keep it as two nights in 2022. It works.